DESPITE a huge lack of facilities in the North East many of the region's athletes managed to out-perform their rivals when competing in the Start Fitness-supported Northern Athletics Indoor Championships in Sheffield.
Around 80 competitors representing around a dozen North Eastern Counties clubs made the trip to Yorkshire to contest the two-day joint senior, junior and under-17 championships with many returning home after scaling the podium.
Leading the way in the senior women's section was Wallsend's Danielle Hodgkinson who switched to the boards after early winter success over the country by posting the fastest times in the Druridge Bay, Aykley Heads and Gosforth North Eastern Harrier League fixtures. The Army personel based in Leeming, missed the county cross-cross-country championships as she was visiting friends in Australia where her training targeted racing indoors after an absence of three years. Hodgkinson showed she was in good form when, in the first day's competition, won the 1,500 metres in 4min 25.35sec which was an indoor pb but well outside her best of 4:19.34 outdoors. The Paddy-Dinsmore advised athlete then returned to the EIS arena 24 hours later and certainly showed no signs of weariness as she stormed to an impressive 3,000m victory in 9:32.41 which was only one of a sprinkling of championship records to fall as she knocked over a second off the 2015 figures of Sale's Jenna Hill.
Still with the senior women, Gateshead's Sydney Robertson claimed the pole vault gold medal after a clearance of 2:90 metres while the Tynesider's team-mate Sophie Littlemore was extremely unlucky not to join her on the top of the podium.
Twelve months ago Littlemore finished in second place (13:48m) in the shot competition and it was the same position she finished with this time round despite adding a further 10 centimetres to her 2018 figures. However, only one centimetre was the difference on this occasion as victory went to Sale's Jessica Taylor-Jemmett with a putt of 13:59m.
Next up onto the podium was another Gateshead athlete, Emily Gargan who produced life-time best figures of 5:87m in the long jump which again earned a silver medal. There were three gold medals to celebrate in the senior men's category which came via Jason Nicholson (Gateshead), Crook's Markim Lonsdale and Blyth's Peter Skirrow. Nicholson, last year's junior indoor champion, showed he is equal to competition over the higher barriers by claiming the 60m hurdles title while Skirrow managed to leap out to a new pb of 7:19m in the long jump which was two centimetres further than Gateshead's Daniel Walsh who claimed the silver medal. Lonsdale, like Nicholson, a GB junior international, was having his first indoor competition for two years - he won the under-20 gold medal on the same track in 2017 - but was up to the task by claiming the 800m title in 1:54.78.
Gateshead's Harrison Whitfield was the region's lone gold medalist in the under-20 men's division after setting a new pb of 13:92m to win the triple jump. Durham City's Luke Pickering finished in second place in the 3,000m while there were bronze medals for Gateshead duo Declan Murray and Kyle Walton. Murray equalled his pb of 3:80m in the pole vault while Walton ran faster than ever before to finish third in the 60m in 7:09s, just edging out Jarrow and Hebburn's Josh Errington who finished fourth in an identical time!
New Marske's Elicia Smith lined up for her first-ever 3,000m and she made it a winning debut. Competing in the under-20 women's section, Smith had over a two-second cushion at the finish to take the title in 10:35.18. There were silver medals for Amy Carter (Middlesbrough Mandale) and Gateshead's Amelia Bateman.
Carter finished runner-up in the 60m hurdles in 8.96s while Bateman, who also finished second last year in the high jump with a clearance of 1:71m, picked up the silver medal after a best height of 1:68m.
Photo credits to: Steve Bateson
Bill McGuirk is the North East's top athletics correspondent. NECAA Chairman and official, Bill can be found at all local athletics events supporting the sport he loves.